Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Playing with fire

Jonathan Hobin's photos are not meant to be pretty

A Boo Grave, 2010 Credit: Jonathan Hobin

The images are chilling: all of them iconic tableaus ripped from news headlines; all of them represented by children at play.

Jonathan Hobin never intended his photographs for public consumption, using them instead to process his own feelings about the airplane bombings of New York’s Twin Towers. But as his theme of children representing adult horrors grew, the impulse to display them became too great to ignore.

“I was actually in school during 9/11,” he says. “We all huddled in front of the TV screens. The tension was palpable. I found myself realizing that what we were watching there was going to be seen and looped constantly until we die.

“It made me think how it would affect the children watching it all, and how historically kids relate to horrible things. But for children, a part of the brain’s ability to process these horrors is as a tactile experience, and they often reenact things like war games or cops and robbers to try to fully understand what’s going on.”

Hobin takes weeks creating and constructing his meticulously staged pieces, bringing his young models in at the last moment to record the finished product. Hobin admits to some challenges in working with child models, but he was surprised by the backlash his images evoked.

“I’ve had people accuse me of child pornography, of abuse and of being the most horrible person in the world,” he says. “It’s like I’m ruining their image of what childhood should be. But I’d much rather create something that sparks a dialogue than have someone say, ‘You know, that would look really nice in my dining room.’”